When May Law Enforcement Conduct a Search Without a Warrant in New York?

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When May Law Enforcement Conduct a Search Without a Warrant in New York?


For the most part, the Fourth Amendment protects New Yorkers against unreasonable searches and seizures. Yet there are times when a police officer may conduct a warrantless search.

If the officer’s search does not fit within the narrowly defined exceptions allowed by law, your defense attorney may be able to suppress any information obtained. 

Exception #1: You Consent

If you consent then you’re waiving your rights. Doing this never provides you with a single benefit. 

Don’t ever consent to a search.

Note that a suspect’s spouse can also give consent to search a home that the both of you share, so make sure your spouse knows that nobody should be giving police officers keys to anything for any reason. 

When you consent to a search you virtually eliminate any challenge that a defense attorney could possibly make to that search. 

Exception #2: The Evidence is in Plain View

Here’s a good reason never to let police officers into your home without a warrant. If police officers walk in and see evidence of a crime sitting on your coffee table, then they may seize that object. 

They may not continue searching their home after seizing that object. They must go back and pursue a search warrant. Nevertheless, you don’t want to give them the opportunity to plant evidence and then to say that the evidence was sitting in plain view. 

Exception #3: Vehicle Searches

We always speak, on this blog, about how you should never consent to a search of your vehicle. Nevertheless, officers may ignore your lack of consent and search your vehicle without a warrant. 

They may do this if they believe the vehicle contains evidence of a crime, the instrumentalities of a crime, contraband, or the fruits of a crime. They must have probable cause for the search. It is still important for you to avoid consent, as we can challenge the probable cause determination in court later. 

Exception #4: Hot Pursuit

If police are pursuing a suspect that they believe committed a felony, and that suspect enters a private property, they may enter that property in turn to arrest the suspect. 

If there is evidence on that suspect’s person or evidence in plain view that the suspect was attempting to hide or destroy, then police may seize that evidence as well. 

“Hot pursuit” only works for felony crimes. It does not work for misdemeanor crimes. 

What About Stop and Frisk? 

On November 28, 2022, a US judge ruled that the New York Police Department’s “stop and frisk” crime fighting tactic is unconstitutional. Mayor Michael Bloomberg plans to appeal the decision.

Until the appeal goes through we can probably expect a pause in this tactic. Nevertheless, in the past police have been able to approach, stop, and pat down a suspect if they had reasonable suspicion that the person was engaging in a criminal act, or had recently engaged in a criminal act. 

See also:

When Can Police Search Your Vehicle in NYC? 

What is the Difference Between Being Arrested and Detained in NYC? 

When Can You Be Accused of Resisting Arrest in NYC?

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